Do Your Local Police Need an Armored Vehicle?

MSNBC asked in a recent article “Why do America’s Police Need an Armored Tank?” The answer to that question is they don’t, but when someone else is footing the bill, why not.

The fact is that most fatal shootings of police officers occur while responding to calls, such as burglary or domestic violence calls and during traffic stops.  Unless the police plan on responding to calls for help by driving their minitanks through the front door, an armored vehicle will do nothing to prevent these deaths.  But, this fact has not stopped police departments across the country from purchasing armored vehicles.

The Lenco Bearcat is often the armored vehicle of choice for police departments.  They cost almost a quarter of a million dollars.  The sheriff in Garfield County, Colorado, Lou Vallejo, justified his recent purchase of a Lenco Bearcat by stating that “there is NO price tag you can put on the life of a police officer who is out there protecting you.”  Well that is easy for you to say Sheriff Vallejo, since it is not your money being spent on this fancy toy.  If you really believe that there is no price tag you can put on the life of a police officer then why don’t you pony up from your own personal funds?

Between 2000 and 2009, 29 police officers were killed during a “tactical situation” such as a barricaded suspect, hostage situation, or high risk entry.  It is possible that some of these officer’s deaths may have been prevented by an armored vehicle, but it is just as likely that not performing a “high risk entry” in the first place would save more lives, and not just officers lives, but the lives of innocent bystanders.  If Sheriff Vellejo was really interested in protecting lives he would spend less time defending his 250,000 dollar chunk of metal and more time insisting that his colleagues refrain from introducing violence into an otherwise non-violent situation. But, when other people are carrying the cost, bureaucrats such as Sheriff Vellejo have little to no incentive to use resources or personal in the most cost effective manner.  Violence is expensive but who cares when someone else not only pays for it, but has no choice but to pay for it.

Of course, cost is not the only concern people should have regarding armored police vehicles.  In 2010 there were 700 SWAT team “high risk entries” that involved serving a search warrant for drugs in just one state.  As the police become more militarized we inevitability see more and more inappropriate use of SWAT raids.  Emboldened with a new armored toy, the police will surely want to find reasons to take it out of the garage.  We can expect more violence, not less.

The sheriff of yesterday.

The Sheriff of today.

In just the last couple decades we have gone from Sheriff Andy to heavily armed police officers in full tactical gear.  Now with a Lenco Bearcat rolling down the street, the police will look no different than if an army was rolling through town.  Do you feel safer?


Paula Parmeley Carter

Paula is a Staff Writer at CopBlock. She advocates ending the monopoly on policing and protection services. When not writing at CopBlock she enjoys being a wife and mother, reading and drinking good beer.

  • Ogre

    No, I don’t feel safer. In fact, quite the opposite, I feel much more fear because I know there are heavily armed men walking around, ready and willing to use force at the drop of the hat, knowing that they will never be held accountable for any misuse of force.

  • the militarization of our police forces is FRIGHTENING. what the hell do these heavily armed robocops & thugs with badges ‘think’ they are protecting us from, huh??

    this is madness, and it must be stopped… before we fully descend into a police state.

  • I agree with the basic premise of the post. However, the statement that police are “Emboldened with a new armored toy, the police will surely want to find reasons to take it out of the garage. We can expect more violence, not less.” is a similar argument I’ve heard consistently about private citizens who carry firearms on their person — that they are just looking for an excuse to use their new toys and people will get hurt. While I tend to agree that police do this, we have to watch that our arguments don’t mimick the same arguments used against liberty.

  • Paula Parmeley Carter

    I see where you are coming from Tobin, but the distinct difference is that private citizens who carry firearms will most likely be held personally accountable for any misuse of their firearm. This disincentives misuse. This can not be said for the police.

  • Justin

    When all you carry is a hammer everything looks like a nail.

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  • Mike

    This happened a couple of years ago but for the most egregious use of a SWAT team just google “swat used for food coop lagrange, ohio” and prepare to be outraged.

  • Mike

    Sheriff Andy never dealt with terrorism and worked in a rural area. If you look in the trunk of todays modern cruiser you will find gear for NBC attacks, riot gear, less lethal gear, fingerprint kits, DNA kits, traffic kits and much more. Police are asked to do more. Most law enforcement has a degree or military background. Most I know have both.

    Oh, and that is not a tank. It’s an armored vehicle. I do feel they have a place in our law enforcement. Just as bomb squads and mobile command posts. The San Diego Sheriff’s Department has one Bearcat. They are the second largest department in California. Does it belong on every SWAT call out? I don’t think so but does it have a place in law enforcement? I think the answer is yes.

  • IceTrey


    I don’t find the idea that cops have a military background comforting at all. People in the military are trained to do one thing, KILL. Having a bunch of trained killers, some of whom are probably suffering from PTSD, dealing with non violent citizens seems like a tragedy waiting to happen, and it does happen, all the time.

  • I read that after the SWAT tank arrived they ended up killing all the chickens anyway. They had to destroy the coop to save it?

  • training day

    So it’s the money issue is it? I’m pretty sure cops pay the same taxes as everyone else. Why aren’t you fairies out lobbying against the gang members or the drug dealers or any other criminal group? Ill tell you why. Its because cops are easy targets. Cops are limited….go video tape a gang member and see if he listens to your civil rights talk…and when he is beating you to a bloody pulp see if your pals from copblock will rush to your aid…..nope it will be the fine men and women of law enforcement to the rescue. Just say thank you.

  • Rob

    @ Training day, Obviously you did not read what CopBlock stands for or is about. I’ll post it here so you don’t have to go searching for it.

    Cop Block is a decentralized project supported by a diverse group of individuals united by their shared goals of police accountability, education of individual rights and the dissemination of effective tactics to utilize while filming police.

    We seek to highlight the double standard that some grant to those with badges. By documenting police actions – whether they are illegal, immoral or just a waste of time and resources – then calling the police stations involved (ideally while recording and then later sharing your conversation), we can work together to bring about transparency and have a real impact.

    In addition to this direct pressure on police departments we want to be an educational resource on institutional changes that would curtail the common rights-violations and unaccountability today by those with badges and a place to showcase different techniques, viewpoints and courses of action.

  • Rob

    @ Training day,

    You said “Why aren’t you fairies out lobbying against the gang members or the drug dealers or any other criminal group?”

    In that statement you answered your own question. Gangs support themselves mostly by selling drugs. If drugs were legalized gangs would not have funding to support themselves. Look at the gang violence and killings in Mexico, they are not smoking weed and then going around like animals shooting everyone. They are killing each other because of the failed war on drugs.

    I have no interest in filming a gang member either as they have no power over me. A gang member can not make fake charges lock me in a cage and lie on a witness stand about it. If a gang member shoots a citizen they go to jail, when a cop shoots someone by mistake they go on a paid vacation until internal review shows that the shooting was “somehow” justified.

    You sound like a police officer, are you going to tell me you have no corrupt cops in you station? You have never seen other cops breaking a law and getting away with it? Or doing anything they can to help clear another officers name? With 800 posts written by CopBlock contributors and almost 1 million page views in the last year I would have to say we are doing something right.

    Also you have never met anyone here including myself and you jump to the conclusion that we are all “fairies” for standing up for what we believe in. Most people would consider that action as heroic. I do want to thank you for viewing our page and your feedback as close minded as it may be.

  • Big M

    Would somebody please tell me when we can drop this juvenile assertion that police are out there “protecting you?” The police have successfully argued, at both the state and national levels, that THEY HAVE NO LEGAL OBLIGATION TO PROTECT YOU AT ALL!

    I challenge anybody to post a comment here detailing how they witnessed any police officer(s) “protecting” anybody, at any time.

  • Dylboz

    @Traing Day: The “taxes” cops pay are just a shell game. They get paid with taxes taken from people who create actual value. If they get paid by the very same organization that collects the taxes they supposedly pay, well, that’s just an accounting gimmick, like if you mom gives you an allowance of $20, but says she’s keeping $5 to pay for the internet connection in your basement, well, your allowance is really just $15. Of course, the difference is, your mom earned the money shaking her ass down at the “gentleman’s” club, whereas the state just took it by force, like a common thief.

  • Police have no responsibility to protect individuals (reference)

    Police have no legal duty to respond and prevent crime or protect the victim. There have BEEN OVER 10 various supreme and state court cases the individual has never won. Notably, the Supreme Court STATED about the responsibility of police for the security of your family and loved ones is “You, and only you, are responsible for your security and the security of your family and loved ones. That was the essence of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in the early 1980’s when they ruled that the police do not have a duty to protect you as an individual, but to protect society as a whole.”

    “It is well-settled fact of American law that the police have no legal duty to protect any individual citizen from crime, even if the citizen has received death threats and the police have negligently failed to provide protection.”

  • Paul S

    The point is not to protect you nor is it to make you feel safe (although some cops may delude themselves that that is what they are doing). The point is the opposite, to make you feel unsafe. That is how the police state advances.

    The way to combat this, is to laugh at them. A bunch of fat pigs oinking in a tank with their ridiculous outfits. Very brave men, to beat up women and shoot dogs. Like the way they shut that mall down because some guy was carrying an “assault umbrella”.

    Also it wouldn’t hurt to arm yourself for when that “rainy decade” comes. Get a battle rifle and a case of ammo, and learn how to shoot.

    Oh, and @Training Days, next time you get the urge to “rescue” me, go fuck yourself instead. I don’t need your “help”.

  • Tovarish1

    I think you’re all liberal idiots who are just too ignorant to understand the police. I read an article above which said “it’s not like the police will drive their minitank through the front door,” well, the fact of the matter is, they do. They often use their armored vehicle to bust down the front door so they don’t have to do it themselves and get killed. SWAT is used for execution of high risk arrest warrants on sex offenders, murderers and drug king pins who order hits on people. THAT’S what they protect you from. And another thing this liberal article failed to mention is SWAT is only a part time position. So for all of you idiots here who don’t know what that means: THEY DON’T WALK AROUND IN FULL TACTICAL GEAR 24/7. They have other jobs in the police department as well. Next time someone points a gun at your face, maybe a crackhead will show up to help you instead of a cop. None of you have ever been the victim of a crime and you’re all ignorant, disrespectful and unappreciative of those who serve your community risking their lives every day.

  • A-Dog

    The cops don’t need these? Did you see the footage of the London Riots or the shoot-out / stand-off south of LA yesterday where an officer took a round in the neck and nearly died? Better to have something and only need it occasionally than need it and not have it.

  • Jim

    When police officer ONLY refer to the tools they have such as guns, batons, spray, and tanks, the forget their most important tools, their mouths and attitudes. I have see many situations where mouths and attitudes have been used to bring up the tempo but also bring the temp down in situations. Maybe the 250,000 -500,000 for a tank could be used on verbal training for the officers.

  • Do local police use ANY armor on theie cars? I was at a city council meeting tonight and they mentioned that the 2 wheel drive Chevy Tahoes were good in slick situations because of the “armor in the rear”.


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